“One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.”
— Kurt Vonnegut
There are two separate, overlapping species of argument for and against the death penalty — the rational and the moral. Jon Millward’s poingnant and oddly harrowing article Death in Texas: Analyzing the Last Words of 478 Death Row Prisoners sheds little light on the specifics of the debate but it does something just as important. By humanizing the “victims” of this ancient ritual of justice, he provides a personal context for both sides of the debate, a debate that is far more comfortable to have in the abstract.
One could argue that sentimentalism has no place in serious discussion, but paring emotion from the debate removes the humanity. Before taking a stance on something as fundamental as the taking of human lives, we are honour bound to learn all we can about the lives that we take.